(c) Xu Bing
  • Lunch lecture

Infrastructure as social dialogue: a historical Asian perspective

12 September 2019

Lunch Lecture by Professor Monica L. Smith (University of California, Los Angeles, USA).

The development of cities requires more than the construction of buildings; there is also a need to connect people with each other and to supply urban populations with goods, services, water, and food from the surrounding countryside. Connectivity is achieved in physical form through the development of roads, canals, bridges, and aqueducts that serve multiple communities simultaneously. Infrastructure is often emplaced prior to buildings and becomes “invisible” yet also is subject to a continuous process of maintenance and modification, providing many opportunities for both conflict and cooperation. As seen through both modern ethnographic examples and archaeological investigations of ancient cities in Asia, the study of infrastructure is a fascinating revelation of the dialogues maintained across all levels of society.

Monica L. Smith received her PhD from the University of Michigan, and is currently Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the Department of Anthropology and in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability; she also holds the Navin and Pratima Doshi Chair in Indian Studies at UCLA. Her research interests are in comparative modern and ancient urbanism, with archaeological fieldwork focused primarily on the development of cities in the South Asian Early Historic period. Her most recent book is Cities: The First 6,000 Years (2019, Viking, New York/Simon and Schuster, London). She also is the author of A Prehistory of Ordinary People, The Archaeology of an Early Historic Town in Central India, and Excavations at Sisupalgarh (with R.K. Mohanty).




12:30 - 14:00


2311GJ Leiden